Brandtopia: A critical consideration of the evolution and future of place branding
Bitterman, Albert (Alex)
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The environments in which we live, work, and play have been changing in terms of social integration, economic segregation, architectonic vernacular, and ethnic as well as racial composition over the past 50 years. Corresponding to this unprecedented social and economic change, the manner though which cities, neighborhoods, and communities are identified has also transformed. One notable trend that has increased dramatically as a response to these changes is the rise in corporate-style branding of cities, neighborhoods, and communities. Through this "place branding", notions of luxury, safety, leisure, excitement, and adventure are conveyed in an attempt to retain residents, attract visitors and entice industry. Proponents argue that contemporary place brands are derivatives of centuries-old place making activities and that place brands benefit municipalities by garnering international recognition, stimulating population growth, growing tax rolls and ensuring future prosperity. Critics argue that contemporary place brands are emerging as a costly and irresponsible endeavors that homogenize place while encouraging elitism, sectorization, and segregation. However, while the short-term effects of place-based brands can be measured in terms of dollars, the long-term effects remain unclear. The democratic and organic place-based identities that traditionally defined the once ubiquitous, central, and shared village green, have been replaced by artificial prescribed brands which, are quickly becoming the civic norm. In light of this rapid growth, it is necessary to critically examine the evolution of place branding, in practical, as well as in conceptual terms. Because contemporary place brands are more closely related to systems of corporate style brands, a thorough understanding of the long-term effects of place branding can be inferred through the study of consumer product branding precedents. Such an examination of wholesale branding practices and methods will uncover potential issues and concerns that will relate to future issues that will likely encircle confront actors involved in future place branding endeavors.